A greyhound racing track in Jacksonville, Florida, Bestbet Orange Park, and a trainer are in some serious trouble today after 12 dogs were found to be "coked up" during recent races, a discovery described as the "the largest greyhound drug case in American history." Here is more from FirstCoast News:
First Coast News obtained records from the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation. They show at least 12 dogs in the care of trainer Charles McClellan tested positive for cocaine, for a total of 18 cases in 4 months. The state requires the winner of each greyhound race, as well as another randomly chosen dog, to be drug tested after races. Urine tests conducted by the University of Florida College on Medicine Racing Laboratory came back positive for BZE. McClellan is cited for a Class 1 drug violation for each positive test.
Bestbet officials declined requests for an interview. Through spokesperson Michael?Munz, the track released this statement:
“Bestbet Orange Park completely supports the swift action taken by the state in this matter and as always, fully cooperated with state officials as they conducted their random and routine tests. Bestbet Orange Park maintains a zero-tolerance policy for any trainer or staff member that does anything which puts one of the dog’s health at risk. In this instance, the process carried out by the state of Florida and the regulators was carefully followed under state law. The bottom line is, the system worked.”
Of course, greyhound activists aren't as convinced that "the system worked."
"This is the largest greyhound drug case in American history," says Carey Theil, Executive Director of GREY2K USA in Arlington, Mass., a non-profit that opposes greyhound racing and monitors dog tracks around the country. "This is staggering."
Carey Theil disagrees. “The track tells the public the dogs are 'well taken care of at our facility: We’re making sure everything is fine.' So they can’t have 18 greyhound cocaine violations and say, 'oh, sorry, it’s not our responsibility.'"
According to Dr. Robert Aguiar, a veterinarian at First Coast No More Homeless Pets, cocaine has the potential to be fatal for a racing dog.
"These animals can go into heat stroke after the race and can collapse because their temperatures can reach 105 degrees," he says.
And while veterinarians say there is no "conclusive" evidence that cocaine can help dogs win, the experience of Flicka, a dog which posted her two fastest times out of 169 races while 'keyed up', would seem to suggest that trainers may be ahead of the veterinarian science on this one.
Dr. Scott Stanley, a toxicologist with UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, says that while cocaine is a stimulant, there has been no evidence to support the claim that cocaine can help a greyhound win a race.
"There are no studies performed by reliable research investigators," he said.
Theil says that while studies about cocaine in dogs may not be conclusive, he sees anecdotal evidence.
"We know the two fastest races of Flicka's career were races which she tested positive for cocaine," he says. "Let me be clear: She has 169 official races in her career. The two fastest times of her career are the two races in which she tested positive for cocaine. That's incredibly disturbing."
Meanwhile, video footage of Flicka's latest race would suggest she had a little extra 'pep in her step' coming out of the gates...